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Could a government shutdown silence Congress on Facebook?

April 8, 2011 |  4:43 pm

A federal government shutdown could close the National Zoo, Smithsonian museums and national parks. It could also reveal which members of Congress are social media whizzes and which ones lean on staffers for their tweets and updates.

If a shutdown were to come to pass, thousands of furloughed government workers deemed "nonessential" might have to turn in their BlackBerrys, the Washington Post reports.

That could prove painful in an era when smartphones are a constant companion and stay close even when workaholics sleep (after all, the device is nicknamed is the Crackberry).

"I'm not sure I could handle it," Kevin Bishop, communications director for Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), told the Post. "It's basically a part of who you are, from the moment you wake up in the morning to the moment you go to bed at night."

It's still unclear how a ban on BlackBerry use would be implemented if congressional leaders fail to reach an agreement on the federal budget. One idea being floated around requires workers to turn in their government-issued phones before exiting, the Post said. But it's unclear how carefully the government has tracked the handout of phones over the years.

This could mean that the Facebook pages and Twitter feeds of some congressional members will go silent, speculates Ben Smith at Politico, separating the true socia media savants from those with savvy employees.

Politicians have increasingly embraced social media to address their constituents directly. Facebook has also geared up its presence in Washington, sending staffers around town to show organizations how to take advantage of its network and flying executives in to discuss privacy and other hot-button topics with lawmakers, a Times story reported in February.


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Photo: President Obama talks with Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg before a dinner with technology business leaders in Woodside, Calif., on Feb. 17. In the background are Carol Bartz, Yahoo president and CEO; Art Levinson, Genentech chairman and former CEO; Steve Westly, founder and managing partner of the Westly Group; and Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google.
Credit: Pete Souza / European Pressphoto Agency